To John Keats, Poet, At Spring Time
I cannot hold my peace, John Keats; There never was a spring like this; It is an echo, that repeats My last year's song and next year's bliss. I know, in spite of all men say Of Beauty, you have felt her most. Yea, even in your grave her way Is laid. Poor, troubled, lyric ghost, Spring never was so fair and dear As Beauty makes her seem this year.
I cannot hold my peace, John Keats, I am as helpless in the toil Of Spring as any lamb that bleats To feel the solid earth recoil Beneath his puny legs. Spring beats her tocsin call to those who love her, And lo! the dogwood petals cover Her breast with drifts of snow, and sleek White gulls fly screaming to her, and hover About her shoulders, and kiss her cheek, While white and purple lilacs muster A strength that bears them to a cluster Of color and odor; for her sake All things that slept are now awake.
And you and I, shall we lie still, John Keats, while Beauty summons us? Somehow I feel your sensitive will Is pulsing up some tremulous Sap road of a maple tree, whose leaves Grow music as they grow, since your Wild voice is in them, a harp that grieves For life that opens death's dark door. Though dust, your fingers still can push The Vision Splendid to a birth, Though now they work as grass in the hush Of the night on the broad sweet page of the earth.
"John Keats is dead," they say, but I Who hear your full insistent cry In bud and blossom, leaf and tree, Know John Keats still writes poetry. And while my head is earthward bowed To read new life sprung from your shroud, Folks seeing me must think it strange That merely spring should so derange My mind. They do not know that you, John Keats, keep revel with me, too.
By Countee Cullen